When it comes to fitness and bodybuilding sticking with the basics is always a good thing. Circuit training is one of the many techniques proven to be immensely helpful in regards to busting plateaus, boosting your cardiovascular capacity and making workouts sessions more fun. In this article, we present you with a few routines to help you continue growing new muscle.
There are a couple of things we need to straighten out when it comes to circuit training. First of all, the circuits are not just meant for beginners.
Even though lots of lifters have begun their relationship with weight lifting using this type of training, it doesn’t mean it should end there. Second, one can continue to experience positive changes in their body composition by following basic circuit training principles.
And lastly, this type of training is not confined to machine exercises only. You can use the same “minimal-rest, consecutive movement” approach with free weights. Actually, doing that can be the boredom break you’ve been wanting for the past few months.
Benefits of circuit training
Doing exercises one after the another without taking any rest is the ultimate in training for performance and can trigger some amazing changes in your body composition.
Not only will the lack of rest help you utilize more oxygen and burn more calories, but doing primarily compound movements will help you improve your metabolism and your overall anabolic profile.
It’s simply offers the best of both worlds. Give this simple but effective circuit program a try and reap the benefits.
Doing circuit training with machine exercises is beneficial for lifters of any level, either beginner, intermediate or advanced. When you start doing this type of training, the machines will help you reinforce the mind-muscle connection necessary to progress with exercises involving free weights.
And taking into account that most of your beginner gains are neurological in nature, not physiological, it is good to make rapid progress in the relative safety of circuit row, gradually adding weight and decreasing weight a lot faster than you might a few years in the future.
However, if you’re an experienced lifter, you can always incorporate what you’ve learned over the years into circuit training and you can do it pretty much forever.
Don’t ever think you’re too good to use machines. Remember the many pros about using them, like allowing you to go as heavy as you want without needing a training partner, simply changing the weight loads so that you can train for various goals, like strength, size and fat loss and making your workout sessions a lot shorter.
Not to mention, it offers an especially nice break from the boredom induced by a stale or familiar routine.
1. Beginner’s circuit
For beginners and people who want to start training after a long break period, circuit training is especially effective. Using machines allows the lifter to do the exercises in a predetermined range of motion and the order in which the exercises are done allows optimal muscle tissue recovery.
The 15 reps done for each exercises help build muscle endurance while allowing beginner lifters to develop muscle memory with some basic movement patters.
You should aim for loads that will bring you to failure at around 15 reps, where you need to struggle to finish the final rep. If you do 16 reps, it means you’ve chosen a weight that’s too light.
- Hack Squat Machine: 15 Reps
- Smith Machine Bench Press: 15 Reps
- Machine Rows: 15 Reps
- Smith Machine Overhead Press: 15 Reps
- Machine Curls: 15 Reps
- Machine Triceps Extensions: 15 Reps
- Machine Crunches: 15 Reps
After completing one full circuit, do it 2 or 3 times more, with no more than one minute of rest between circuits. When you come to a point where you can complete all 3 circuits easily, add just enough weight to reach failure at the same rep range and/or add one or two bodyweight movements to the end of this circuit. The most effective would be bodyweight squats and push ups.
2. Bodybuilding circuit
Just because it’s machine training doesn’t mean it’s going to be “light” training. In many instances, machines allow you to train heavier and safer without the need to use a spotter, which ultimately leads to greater gains in size and strength.
There was one study done on trained lifters which reported that they could lift around 4% more weight on the Smith machine squat variation than the free-weight back squat, even though the latter burns more calories because of the greater engagement of stabilizer muscles.
This circuit will also help improve your metabolism. Research has shown that shorter rest intervals between heavy sets made lifters burn 50% more calories during the training sessions than those who rested for 3 or more minutes.
This means you should use heavy weights and short periods for maximal results. All you need to do is choose the proper weights.
- Leg Press: 5-7 Reps
- Smith Machine Bench Press: 5-7 Reps
- Machine Rows: 5-7 Reps
- Smith Machine Overhead Press: 5-7 Reps
- Machine Preacher Curl: 5-7 Reps
- Machine Triceps Extension: 5-7 Reps
- Machine Crunch: 12 Reps
Repeat this circuit three times, whilst aiming to rest less than 60-90 seconds between exercises. You can rest up to 3 minutes between each circuit.
Try to choose a load that will allow you to complete at least 7 reps on your first round. Fatigue will quickly start creeping in and will bring your rep numbers down as the workout progresses.
In order to increase difficulty, you can keep the rest interval shorter than a minute between exercise and shorter than 90 seconds between each round.
3. Physique definition circuit
The line between training with heavy and light weights have been blurred by a recent study which showed that subjects that did high-rep sets (around 30 reps) to failure experienced gains in muscle mass similar to group that trained heavy using 6-8 reps.
The higher training volume is, logically, an aerobic challenge which causes a higher caloric burn during one workout, thus keeping you lean and athletic in the process.
- Leg Press: 30 Reps
- Smith Machine Bench Press: 30 Reps
- Machine Row: 30 Reps
- Smith Machine Overhead Press: 30 Reps
- Machine Preacher Curl: 30 Reps
- Machine Triceps Extension: 30 Reps
- Machine Crunch: 30 Reps
You should force yourself to go as heavy as possible for these high-rep loads. If you reach failure before 30 reps, simply pause for as many seconds as there are reps remaining and then continue.
Do this as many times as necessary in order to reach 30 and adjust the load down for the next circuit round to get full 30 reps. Rest for 1-2 minutes between rounds and aim to complete 3-4 rounds total to maximize calorie burning.